International Community of Practice for National Schools of Government (ICOP 2021)
Civil Service College of Singapore hosts seven member organisations for ICOP 2021. Head of APS Academy represents APS
International Community of Practice for National Schools of Government
The global pandemic has redefined approaches to workforce development, not just in the APS but in other civil sectors across the globe.
This was the message that came through loud and clear at the Second Meeting of the International Community of Practice for National Schools of Government—better known as ‘ICOP’.
The 2021 meeting, held as three separate sessions over 16–23 November, was organised by the Civil Service College of Singapore around a theme of “Strengthening Public Service Capabilities in a Post-Pandemic World”.
Who is ICOP?
ICOP brings together leaders from seven member organisations, all of which support the capability of public servants across our respective national governments: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom. ANZSOG’s unique position in the trans-Tasman capability landscape brings them to ICOP too.
Our own First Assistant Commissioner and Head of Academy, Grant Lovelock, represented Australia and the work of the APS in responding to the disruptions of the pandemic. In Session 1, Grant presented the APS approach to Strategic Workforce Planning while in Session 3, he moderated a discussion on approaches and methodologies for post-COVID-19 learning and development, following presentations from Canada, Hong Kong and South Korea.
All members were eager to hear the experiences of other jurisdictions, to hear what challenges—and opportunities—had been brought by the pandemic and the various government responses.
Silver linings to dark clouds
While the negative impact of COVID-19 and the difficulties borne by citizens and communities cannot be minimised, there is increasing evidence of silver linings appearing, as government workforces return, reset and recover.
In Australia’s case, these might be observed in the desire of agencies to establish a ‘new post-COVID normal’ and in the appetite to rebuild capability according to different institutional frameworks. We are seeing this in the momentum of the ‘One-APS’ model and the desire for a united ‘ecosystem’ of learning and development stakeholders and, of course, the role for the APS Academy within that landscape.
All ICOP members reported the importance of technology in transferring to non-classroom-based delivery. Learning technologies and virtual learning environments, including digital tools, learning management systems and content repository solutions, have been tested and mostly, survived the challenge, particularly when scale and scope of requirements have changed so quickly.
The shift to virtual learning not only demonstrated what was possible, but also some of the benefits available, including wider regional reach, scalability, more rapid response and lower cost. The ICOP meeting itself, though challenged by members’ attendance from seven international time zones, was a demonstration of technology’s ability to produce a valuable learning outcome.
In some respects, the disruptions have actually assisted the agenda. In our own case, take-up of the Workforce and L&D Strategies across many agencies of the APS was always going to require a decoupling from existing practices and problematic ‘old state’ thinking. Normally, organisational change is slow. However, the dramatic changes to both short and longer term work brought about by the pandemic have seen rapid, new thinking about how, when and where new workplace skills, knowledge and behaviours are acquired.
All ICOP members reported similar experiences.
So, what happens next?
The pandemic has created a unique opportunity to set new expectations for workforce and capability development and for these to become embedded in day-to-day work right across the workforce.
The big question on everyone’s lips is: How can this learning be harnessed?
Presenters at ICOP noted the importance of retaining the most valuable elements and applying the lessons of the pandemic period while being more deliberate for instance, in determining where people are best located to do a particular kind of work.
ICOP 2021 presented an opportunity to reflect on how much we have done and how far we have come since the Thodey review. It was a great opportunity to see our work on the international stage and gain a sense of how highly it is regarded.